The French President Emmanuel Macron has, it is revealed, forbidden all talk at the Elysée of the forthcoming presidential election and has refused to discuss even whether he will be a candidate. His entire attention is focused on France and the French, he claims.
Of course this is entirely the opposite of the truth as his entire attention is focused on being re-elected. Nevertheless, he was likely to have been opening a bottle of something sparkling in which to dip his croissant this morning with the announcement that Michel Barnier, yet another no-hoper, has thrown his beret into the ring to oppose him. Divide and conquer seems to be Macron’s strategy. Although Macron’s party, La République en Marche, is hardly a party at all, having failed miserably in European regional and municipal elections, and millions of French voters despise him, and hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets to oppose his vaccination passports, he is banking on an ancient calculus. That there’s no evident alternative. Except there might be. Although it’s not Barnier.
Barnier, a superannuated politician of 70, last a minister 26 years ago, was exiled to Brussels 22 years ago where he has accumulated a fortune in untaxed emoluments and most recently ran the Brexit negotiating team for the EU, making himself notorious in Britain where he is currently taken more seriously as a prospective presidential candidate than in France itself. ‘He isn’t a serious candidate,’ says a mayor I know with sensitive political antennae. ‘He’s not running for president. He’s running to try to make himself relevant, and perhaps to reinsert himself as a minister of something in the future.’ Good luck with that.
A fanatically pro-EU Savoyard in a country that’s deeply Eurosceptic, Bernier will join an overweight list of candidates in a future Republican primary election in which the contours remain obscure.